Under certain circumstances, the unlawful killing of another human being is treated as murder under Florida law. It goes without saying that murder is an extremely serious offense punishable by the most severe penalties available.
But the laws on the subject are extremely complex, and particular details such as the state of mind of the parties involved or the facts involving any defensive actions or surrounding unlawful behavior have a tremendous bearing on the severity of the crime as well as questions or guilt or innocence.
Quality legal representation is of paramount importance. A Ft Lauderdale murder lawyer with experience in homicide cases will know the intricacies of the law and how these laws apply to the circumstances involved in your case. This knowledge becomes the basis for building the best possible defense.
First Degree Murder
The most severe classification of murder, treated as a capital offense, is murder in the first degree. Section 782.04(1)(a) sets forth three different sets of circumstances which will cause an unlawful killing to be classified as first-degree murder. The first is when the killing is committed as part of a “premeditated design” to kill any human being. This is referred to as “premeditated murder.”
The second set of circumstances establishes what is known as “felony murder.” This essentially means that the killing happens while the individual involved is committing or attempting to commit a serious felony. The crimes that trigger this provision include:
- Drug trafficking
- Sexual battery
- Aggravated abuse of a child, elderly person or disabled person
- Hijacking a car or airplane
- Setting, throwing or discharging a bomb
- Aggravated stalking
- Resisting an officer with violence
- Certain acts of terrorism
- Human trafficking
- Aggravated fleeing with serious bodily injury
The third circumstance which would cause a killing to be classified as first-degree murder is if the killing results from the illegal distribution of certain controlled substances when the drug is shown to be the proximate cause of death.
As a capital crime, first-degree murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment making it important that a seasoned attorney in Ft Lauderdale is consulted.
Second- and Third-Degree Murder
Murder in the second degree is defined under Section 782.04(2) of the Florida criminal code. An unlawful killing is treated as second-degree murder if it fits one of two categories. The first is if the killing is perpetrated by a dangerous act that reveals “a depraved mind” with no regard to human life, even though there is no plan to cause a killing.
The second set of circumstances creates another “felony murder” category. In this instance, an unlawful killing becomes a second-degree murder if it occurs during the commission of one of the above-listed felonies, but the felony is being committed or attempted by an accomplice of the individual who committed the killing. Regardless, a homicide lawyer in Ft Lauderdale should still be contacted.
Finally, if the unlawful killing occurs while an individual is in the process of committing or attempting a felony other than those listed under Section 782.04(1)(a), the killing will be treated as a third-degree felony.
Generally, this would include killings that occur during the course of a non-violent felony, though those that occur in the course of some drug-related offenses would still be treated as first or second-degree murder.
The punishments for second and third-degree murder include lengthy prison sentences and fines of up to $10,000 making it imperative that a murder attorney is consulted.
Talk to a Ft. Lauderdale Murder Attorney Today
If facing a murder charge, you want the best possible legal representation. An experienced Ft Lauderdale murder lawyer will know not only the laws but the complex criminal procedures involved in a homicide case, and how to take the right steps to build an effective defense and work toward the best possible resolution. Contact our office today.